A list of our favorite date night restaurants in Champaign-Urbana and Beyond.
Where to go when it’s just you and your favorite dinner companion.
Maybe the grandparents are in town. Maybe you’ve splurged for a babysitter. Or maybe you’re taking advantage of one of those awesome “parents night out” events around Champaign-Urbana.
No matter the reason, it’s date night, and you’re all about having a nice, leisurely grown-up meal. You know, the kind of meal where you don’t have to worry about taking the kid to the bathroom the moment your hot food arrives, or eating so fast you can barely taste what is in your mouth because the toddler is about to have a nuclear meltdown.
Some of our favorite stops:
Everyday Kitchen, Champaign. Since Everyday Kitchen opened in October 2018, it’s quickly vaulted to become one of our favorite places for a grownup meal. It’s one of the most elegant and modern dining rooms in town. We love all of the sharable options (honestly, you could make a meal out of appetizers). Favorite dishes: the beet salad and the spitfire chicken. One myth to bust: you don’t have to be a Lodgic member to eat at Everyday Kitchen; and if you need childcare, it’s right there at Lodgic Kids Camp.
Nando Milano, downtown Champaign. If you’re seeking an uber romantic vibe, this is where to find it. Nando Milano, in a word, is exquisite. Even the pickiest eater could find something at this upscale Italian destination, from pasta to fish to veal. The menu changes often, thanks to specials, although staples like the delicious rice ball appetizer stay consistent. Don’t miss the pistachio semifreddo dessert. Our recommendation: get a reservation, and ask for a booth or a table by the windows.
Miga, downtown Champaign. Named by our readers as a favorite for Korean Food and also Sushi. Miga offers great ambience, superb service, and unique, delicious food. While the ambience at Miga features a contemporary, big-city feel that doesn’t require the long trip up to Chicago, the atmosphere remains warm and inviting. The flexible and creative menu, warm atmosphere, attentive service, and air of intimacy of Miga makes it a good choice for a special date night dinner out. Miga also has a great bar. For more on Miga, click here.
Big Grove Tavern, downtown Champaign. I love everything about this place — the atmosphere, the food, the people watching. And the popcorn you receive when you sit down, too. The chicken is mouthwatering. And the Brussel sprouts (a seasonal item) are one reason I look forward to the weather getting cooler, but sitting on its lovely patio makes this a great summer destination. Looking for a spot to meet up before dinner? Big Grove Tavern also has one of our favorite bars in Champaign-Urbana.
Timpone’s, Urbana. An Urbana classic. Located on campus right not far from the Canopy Club and Krannert Center, this is a great place to eat if you are going to an event at one of those places — or if you just want to have some darn good food in a comfortable, relatively quiet place. Fish is a specialty; some people rave about the pizza. No matter what you get, I always leave Timpone’s feeling like it was a great value. Not that it’s cheap — it’s just quality at reasonable prices.
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Sakanaya, Campustown in Champaign. OK I’ll admit it, my husband won’t eat sushi — but if you and your partner do sushi, this is a great place. Walk in, and you feel like you’ve been transported somewhere else. It’s pretty small and intimate, with modern, upscale decor. Its menu is different than other sushi restaurants in the area and is moderately priced. Pro tip: go when the students are not on campus. See our Mom Review of Sakanaya here.
Naya, Campustown. Our reviewer declares that Naya — despite its campus location — is a great place for a date night. The lighting is romantically dim, the so that a massive mirrored wall with sparkling alcohol bottles was the centerpiece.
The Wheelhouse, St. Joseph. This hidden gem in St. Joseph presents some of the most unique dishes in the area. We’ve always been impressed with the food, and the ability to get out of town makes this feel like a bit of a “getaway” – yet it’s only 15 minutes out of town. The drink menu is equally interesting and ingenious. This is a place where you want to savor your food – perfect for date night. (And if your idea of date night is a bike ride, this place is right off the Kickapoo Rail Trail, and don’t worry – you won’t feel out of place there arriving in your bike attire).
Sun Singer, Champaign. The dining room expansion makes this wine store restaurant feel transformed from its cafe origins The dinner menu adds a grownup flair with steaks, fish and other dishes (four different kinds of paella!), plus you can still get everything from the lunch menu. This is a fantastic option if you just want drinks and appetizers. A great place to dine al fresco, when the weather warrants it.
When you’re willing to drive a little farther …
Beef House, Covington, Ind. The Beef House is certainly kid-friendly and we go as a family once in awhile for special occasions. But this was one of our favorite stops pre-children, and that’s how I think of it. And not many kids can sit for a three-course meal when you do soup, the fantastic salad bar, and the main course. And did I mention the rolls? BEEF HOUSE ROLLS! A 45-minute drive from C-U.
Firefly Grill, Effingham. Every time we drive an hour to Firefly for dinner I remind myself that my friends who live in the Chicago suburbs routinely drive an hour to get to the city for date night. But we don’t need an excuse to go to this destination, which features food grown in its own garden and fish flown in fresh daily. But don’t be fooled — there’s nothing pretentious about it. It’s comfortable yet romantic. If you like to eat outside, ask for a table on the screened-in porch overlooking the pond.
What are your favorites?